Do we stand out

As many of you know, I am an avid reader.  My focus is on non-fiction, however, every now and then I will relax with a good story, but have not done so in a while.  This past couple of weeks I have been reading a book entitled “Taking Sides : Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Religion“, edited by Daniel K Judd.  Basically, there are a series of Yes and No questions, with two essays regarding each question, one explaining why the answer is Yes, and another explaining why it is No.  In answer to the question “Is War Ever Justified?”  The Editors of First Things in relating the Yes answer quotes an anonymous author of “The Letter to Diognetus” written in the second century to explain to a pagan reader the way it is with these odd people called Christians.  Here is the quote:

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by either country, speech, or customs.  They do not live in cities of their own; they use no particular language, they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.  They reside in their own countries, but only as alien citizens; they take part in everything as foreigners.  Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland a foreign country.  They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go beyond the law,  In a word, what the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world.  The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body; just so Christians live in the world, but are not of the world.”

What amazes me about this is that the Christians of that day stood out from the world.  Yes, they lived in this world, but it was very obvious that they were different, that they did not necessarily belong.  They lived in this world, however, they did not act as the world acts; they were clearly from a different place.  The Christians did not have to say anything, it was apparent from their behavior that they were strangers in this world, living among them without adopting all their ways.

When non-Christians look at the ‘professing Christians’ today, would they write the same type of letter to their peers, those questioning the truth of Christianity?  I would like to say definitely, but I would have to say, with sadness, it depends on the person.  There are people who live their lives with conviction and total commitment to God.  Their lives are a testimony to the Lordship of Christ in the true believers.  Church is a special time of fellowship with God first, and everyone else second.  They submerge themselves into worship and praise of God, not thinking of themselves and what they are getting out of it.  Their complete focus is lifting up and declaring the majesty and greatness of our Creator and Savior.  Spending time with Him is a privilege, not a duty.  Putting others first is just the natural order, and sacrificing for the betterment of others is just a way of life.  In other words, someone who is a true light in the darkness.

Unfortunately, too many who claim the name of Christ simply are not committed to the Lord or the way of life that comes with that commitment.   They go to church, however their hearts are far from God.  They are focused on what they can get rather from than what they can give to God.  Worship is something that must make them feel good and entertain them.  They have separated their lives into two compartments; the religious and then their real lives (I chose these words deliberately).  They do the Christian stuff because it is what is expected, however, if it gets in the way of their real life, then it will be set aside.  They focus on worldly, but not necessarily sinful, activities and interests without many times any thought of the omnipotent and omnipresent God.  If they give to others, it must be for their satisfaction ahead of the benefit of the recipient, however, they would never admit this even to themselves.  In other words, one who cannot be distinguished from the darkness that surrounds them.

For many years, my life resembled the second person, not committed to Christ, but still claiming His name.  For me, I did not know any different because this was what I was taught, not by any formal teaching, but by many of the lives I observed from those in the church I attended while I was growing up.  I saw a person who would sing hymns on Sunday, yet curse me out during the week as my boss if I did not do the job they assigned to their satisfaction.  I heard people gossip and backbite during fellowship times.  Others complaining because the songs just were not as good as the previous week.

It was not until I became desperate for the reality of God did He grab hold of me, showing me I was truly not saved, revealing Himself to me such that I could not resist His call, then led me to a church in South Florida, Rock Church of Homestead, which taught me the truth about this life.  I encourage all of you reading this to examine your life and see which of the above pictures are more like you than the other.  Be open to what God shows you.  The world needs to see the reality of the Christian life, not a caricature of it.   The world needs to see the Christian life more as what the anonymous writer above then as one which is camouflaged to look like the world itself.

I am afraid that if someone were to write the same letter today as was written in the 2nd century, it would sound like the following:

“Christians are not distinguishable from the rest of humanity.”


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